NFC Notes: Giants, Panthers, Saints

     

Giants

As the Giants continue to work to rebuild their offensive line, the center position remains in flux. If the season started tomorrow, veteran C Spencer Pulley would likely man the spot. But Pulley’s job is by no means safe, as New York continues to talk about veteran free agent C Jon Halapio as if he’s a part of the team and will likely re-sign him for camp if his torn Achilles is healed. New York also has high hopes for younger options Nick Gates and fifth-round rookie Shane Lemieux, though Giants HC Joe Judge acknowledged it could be difficult for young players to win starting jobs this year given the limited practice time this spring. 

“We’re going to give them the opportunity to,” Judge said via the Athletic’s Dan Duggan. “Is there going to be enough time? To be honest with you, that’s going to be different for every player. Individually, someone is going to emerge earlier and if they can hold that position through consistency, great. We may have someone start out and have to have a learning curve and demonstrate they can learn from their mistakes and it may put them behind early, but it’s about where they put themselves going into the season that will really determine what their role on the team is going to be.”

Panthers

It’s been nearly two years since Panthers K Graham Gano kicked for the team in a regular-season game. He missed the final four games in 2018 with a knee injury and was unable to recover in time for the start of last season, going on injured reserve before the end of the preseason. So far his second year rehabbing has appeared to have gone more smoothly, per Panthers ST coordinator Chase Blackburn.

“I get updates from our trainer. He’s been able to go into the facility with the ruling of the injured players be(ing) able to go in, so he’s been back in there and he’s been kicking well,” Blackburn said via Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve been getting updates from Kevin (King, the team’s head athletic trainer), and everything’s been going well. Rehab’s been going really, really well and I guess he kicked today.”

Of course, Gano will not only have to prove he’s healthy, but also prove he’s better than his replacement last year, Panthers K Joey Slye. Initially brought in as a camp leg to spell Gano, Slye ended up as the starter in 2019. He showed off his range, making 8-11 field goal attempts from 50+ yards, but also his inconsistency, converting just 78 percent (25 of 32) of his field-goal tries and 31-35 of his extra points.

Before his injury, Gano was a Pro Bowl kicker and still converted 14-16 field goals and 30-33 extra points in 2018. The battle between the two in training camp and preseason should be among the fiercer competitions on Carolina’s roster in 2020, and there’s a good chance the Panthers are hoping to come out in a win-win situation by being able to trade one. 

“The (kicking) battle as far as that’s concerned, I mean, in reality, we’re in a very, very blessed situation, because we got two very capable kickers with really talented legs,” Blackburn said. “There’s plenty of teams around the NFL right now that would be very excited to have the competition that we have going.”

Saints

New Saints QB Jameis Winston signed in New Orleans in an attempt to follow the path Teddy Bridgewater blazed before him, who turned his stint backing up QB Drew Brees into a big contract and starting job with the Panthers. Winston is hoping to do something similar and so far has been impressing the Saints coaching staff even without the onfield work. 

“I think he’s a talented football player and he’s done a lot of great things in this league already and we’re excited to have him,” Saints OC Pete Carmichael said via Pro Football Talk. “Just in these meetings that we’ve been having with these virtual meetings, the one thing that stands out to me right away is that he’s sharp, he’s smart, he has asked the right questions. And so he has that experience and he’s got the ability, you see him throw the ball downfield, he’s got excellent arm strength. So there’s a lot to be excited about and we’re looking forward to working with him.”

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